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Harald Bluetooth at Roskilde

On the four pillars in the choir of Roskilde Cathedral are pictures of the cathedral’s founders and its earliest and most noble benefactors. One of them is Harald Bluetooth, who is painted on the west pillar of the choir’s north side. Harald is dressed in red stockings and top, a blue skirt and golden armour, which is reminiscent of chest armour from classical antiquity. He wears his crown on top of a white hat.      


Under the picture of Harald Bluetooth is written ”Haraldus rex danie anglie et norvegie pr(imus) fundator huius ec(c)l(esie)” - “Harald, King of Denmark, England and Norway, this church’s first founder.”

Pictures of the founders

The pictures of the founders at Roskilde were painted in the 16th century, but have been renovated many times since, so that it is no longer possible to be sure how they looked originally. It was previously believed that it was the historically-interested Bishop Lage Urne (died 1529) who had the pictures painted. But they were supposedly painted in the second half of the 1500s on Frederik II’s initiative. During his reign of 1559-1588 the king ordered a number of medieval churches with royal burials to be renovated and decorated. These consisted of Roskilde, Odense, Ribe, Sorø and Ringsted.


The paintings may have been done whilst Morten Pedersen was rector at Roskilde Cathedral from 1572 until his death in 1595. Morten Pedersen was previously principal or abbot of the reorganised Sorø Monastery, where he had been interested in Bishop Absalon and his family.


The present-day appearance of the paintings of the founders is the result of the work of the illustrator and archaeologist Jacob Kornerup. He touched them up in 1871-74 on the basis of paintings, which had been found under later layers of paint. Jacob Kornerup was also illustrator during the 1861 excavations at Jelling.


Harald Bluetooth. Painting on the north-west pillar of the choir of Roskilde Cathedral. Photo: the National Museum.
Roskilde Cathedral’s choir. Photo: Anne Pedersen.